Bill Eaton wrote me a few months ago, suggesting I write about Ace Hardware, which at some point in the relatively near future will relocate from University Avenue to the Tioga Building on Milvia just south of University.
Can do. And, now – done.
The earliest common ancestor of Quirky Berkeley was a list I kept of Things I Love About Berkeley. On that list was Berkeley Ace Hardware.
Aside from it’s easy to park and the people who work there are helpful and everything you need is there and the Brazilian food across the street – the things that I love about Berkeley Hardware are:
1) The building. To learn about the building I wrote, of course, Daniella Thompson. She told me that James Plachek designed the building and that it was built in 1915. She sent me to an article she wrote for BAHA in 2007. In that article I learned that the building was home to Sill’s Grocery and Hardware from 1915 until 1924, Appleton’s Grocery until 1964, and Berkeley Hardware since 1964.
2) The model trains. Intrinsically quirky. As are all models.
All of my children have loved going to Ace and seeing the trains. Jake 30 years ago, Charlotte until a few years ago. Julia and Rosalie in between.
3) The gum ball machine.
Ditto with its popularity with my children.
4) The little cars and Homies on the stairs going down.
Homies are two-inch plastic figures depicting Chicano characters. David Gonzalez created them based on a comic strip that he had created. They were introduced in 1998. Gonzales has local ties – he went to the California College of Arts and lived in Hercules until a few years ago.
5) The model airplanes suspended from the basement ceiling.
6) The slot cars down with the model trains.
My friend Criswell was a big slot car guy in about 1965. Convenient for him: the Holiday Raceway that was in Berwyn where he lived.
7) Lastly,the Chuckles.
My mother was very fond of Chuckles. I don’t know of any other place in Berkeley where Chuckles are sold. Scientific research shows that the red (cherry) ones are the most popular. Not with me though. My preference for the candies: black, orange, yellow, green, red. I can do without the green and red all together.
Eaton sent me some photos that he took of the downstairs. He wrote: “Took these the last time I was there, May 2014. Started going there for model cars and planes in the early ’70s as a kid and always loved the ‘stairway to heaven’ descent to the hobby section. A lot of the models down there in the past two+ decades came from the owner’s model collection, all unbuilt and never opened, so standing in the “stacks” and looking at kits from the 1950s through the 1980s mixed with modern kits was always an eerie form of time travel for me. Undoubtedly for many others too. So goodbye to all that and best of luck to Berkeley Hardware in its new location.”
My friend is as big fan of Berkeley Hardware as I am. I showed him the photos.
He resorted to Tagalog for his answer in honor of the Filipinos who work at Berkeley Hardware: “Kung ano any isang bihaye!” Meaning what????